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Idioms need not apply

Idioms need not apply

“Chink in the armor” is a non-racial idiom, not a single word, denoting:

A vulnerable area, as in Putting things off to the last minute is the chink in Pat’s armor and is bound to get her in trouble one day . This term relies on chink in the sense of “a crack or gap,” a meaning dating from about 1400 and used figuratively since the mid-1600s.

The term “chink in the armor” is used frequently in sports analogies, as this 2005-2010 Google search indicates.

“Chink” standing alone also is a slang pejorative for someone of Chinese or more generally of Asian descent.

In discussing Jeremy Lin’s playing vulnerabilities, an on-air ESPN announcer used the phrase “chink in armor” and it was repeated in an ESPN web headline early the next morning.

The announcer has been suspended and the headline writer fired because the idiom was deemed offensive:

The ESPN editor fired Sunday for using “chink in the armor” in a headline about Knicks phenom Jeremy Lin said the racial slur never crossed his mind – and he was devastated when he realized his mistake.

“This had nothing to do with me being cute or punny,” Anthony Federico told the Daily News….

Battling to contain a furor, the sports network fired Federico and suspended anchor Max Bretos for 30 days because it turned out he had used the same expression on the air last week. ESPN offered profuse mea culpas and promised to be “better in the future.”

Federico, 28, said he understands why he was axed. “ESPN did what they had to do,” he said.

He said he has used the phrase “at least 100 times” in headlines over the years and thought nothing of it when he slapped it on the Lin story….

Bretos, too, said he didn’t think of the slur Wednesday when he asked Knicks legend Walt (Clyde) Frazier about Lin on the air.

“If there is a chink in the armor, where can he improve his game?” Bretos asked….

“My wife is Asian, would never intentionally say anything to disrespect her and that community,” Bretos wrote. “Despite intention, phrase was inappropriate in this context.”

If there were some evidence of a deliberate attempt to use a slur, that would be one thing, but there is none here from what has been revealed.

Add it to the list:  Black Friday, Black Hole, Providence Plantations, Rejigger, and Gobbledygook.


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The problem is that the writer and editor actually had a vocabulary larger than a 6th grader. Their superiors did not. And the computer-program used to scan for double-plus-ungood words didn’t even go to school.

I’m still working on Santa Claus’ brazenly racist AND sexist catch phrase “Ho ho ho!”.

As a person of some Irish heritage, I am personally offended by “Mickey Mouse”

I got the impression when I originally read about this headline that the author intended the play on words.

However, it would appear that they didn’t even see any association with the phrase with the derogatory term.

Ignorance in the press abounds. Anyone with any knowledge of real prejudice and racial slurs would see that this phrase might be mis-read considering the subject is of Chinese background.

Our education fails on so many levels – perhaps this is another example.

Add to the list niggardly.

Great post title!

Great Scott!

No insult intended to LI’s readers of Scottish descent. I meant it as a term expressing dismay over the continued absurdity revolving around Lin’s race. Seriously!

You’ll never take me alive!

Well, I probably wouldn’t have used that idiom when discussing Lin, but I agree with the point. Posted on this myself, and the screen capture of the ESPN article is at the link: ‘ESPN Apologizes for ‘Chink in the Armor’ Headline’.

ESPN is just being yellow.

More seriously, hasn’t it been our goal for 40+ years to get to the point where we DON’T think in these terms?

But it’s still open season on those of us of European descent, right?

Madness, and the beginning of the end not just for free speech but for freedom. That’s what political correctness is, really — a tool to inculcate fear and ultimately the end of individuality within the sphere of the state and its ruling orthodoxy. What’s interesting here is how fast and with so little resistance everybody involved submitted to the supreme logic and authority of political correctness. The writer instantaneously jettisoned personal or professional integrity or pride or his civic duty to the First Amendment (if he even had any to begin with). No doubt he was educated at all the best schools, properly trained to recognize his obedience to the codes and the need to pay dearly for his solecism. But shouldn’t he be interred at a re-education camp? Forbidden from working again until he can prove his reformation and swear undying fealty to the PC strictures? Is this that far off? What is the end of political correctness? Or what true ultimate motive does it arise from? Do we teach young people even to imagine this anymore?

When did we come to fear a language offense more than the offense against our right to use language in any way he choose or our obligation to resist this kind of irrational and petty tyranny? The Left must be gloating over their victory.

I suggest from this point on, in a show of racial goodwill, we recognize the saying, “A cracker in the armor.”

Honky if you agree.

(But per the Professor’s wishes, make sure you’re stopped at a red light).

ESPN is owned by Disney and that’s pretty much all one needs to know in terms of knee-jerk overreactions in fealty to political correctness.

    Captain Hate in reply to Henry Hawkins. | February 20, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    If some other network or outlet did this ESPN would be leading the piling on so they aren’t being hypocrites about this. That is the only positive thing I’ll say about the world’s leader in sports broadcasting in this matter. If you can imagine the most derogatory comment possible about them otherwise, that’s probably what I think.

    I think the reality is that ESPN management has taken over for Disney.

Headlines are so often about using terms that convey a double meaning, I find it hard to believe it wasn’t intentional. It seems more likely he wasn’t smart or old enough to know it was pejorative. “Chink” might be as unfamiliar to youngsters as 8-track tape players.

In any case, a simple apology would have made sense. Firing without evidence of intent makes for a hostile work environment, though a communications major should be more aware of non-PC terms. Too bad the “post-racial” Obama environment has only heightened the hypersensitivity.

listingstarboard | February 20, 2012 at 12:57 pm

Almost as absurd as the NAACP pressuring Hallmark to yank the graduation card with Hoops and YoYo. I love Hoops and YoYO

A few years ago I was telling one of my liberal friends that I was pissed off at someone for reneging on a deal they had made with me.
My friend screamed, “How can you say something so racist???”

Just shows you how stupid the left is and always will be.

Remember the recent Collectivist panty twist resulting from use of the term…


This is silly.

I once got in a lot of trouble for using the acronym “FUBAR”.

Joan Of Argghh | February 20, 2012 at 1:07 pm

We need someone to weigh in with a white paper about racial idioms.

Seriously, I knew a PhD/MD who was hired by a medical teaching consortium to go through scholarly studies and reports before publishing in order to change any sexist language that described a medical malady.

So, what’s the bottom line? That the use of “chink” regarding Jeremy Lin was a total coinky-dink? Or that it was a deliberate choice, but because “chink” has multiple meanings, no harm, no foul?


Meanwhile, we have commercials on TV with a “SUCK-o-meter”

“It is impossible to know what will offend somebody. What is certain is that everything that has been said or done will indeed offend somebody.”

    When standard oil tried to reconstitute whatever was left of Esso, they tried to pick a name that didn’t offend any culture around the world. Research showed that no language had a “xx” (double x) in their words …

    So they picked Exxon … the sign of the double cross

It’s certainly a common enough phrase that the announcer should be given a pass on it. Perhaps putting it on a headline feed was too much – you do have to think about impressions, and the sports world was already exploding with “Linsanity” puns. It seems to me harmless if used extemporaneously in an interview, but overusing the phrase in Lin’s case should have raised a flag.

Remember the DC Treasurer who was forced to resign a couple of years ago after criticizing the Mayor’s “niggardly budget” proposal?

Once again demonstrating that stupid goes all the way to the core and is incurable…

Not since Obama’s presidency have I seen such a Great Leap Forward towards a colorblind America.

Of course, as Obama himself would tell you, he never said “change to a colorblind society in just one term.”

Evil Blogger Lady is at it again..

“Nobody even wears armor anymore, and the word “chink” is only used — other than in its moronic racial denotation — in that dying metaphor. Here’s my rule: No one should ever use the expression “chink in the armor” again. Fire everyone who lets it go out in a final draft of anything.”


Like a blog post?

On LI?

And here I sit pining for those when we were young and “gay” when my Mom would read “fairy” tales to my brother and me. Are these words still in the dictionary?

I think we as people are taking ourselves much too seriously and have forgotten how to laugh and enjoy life.

arrghhhhhh .. those days when …..

    Browndog in reply to MAB. | February 20, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Thinking back to the common phrases we used as kids..

    They would have shut down our elementary school due to lack of students-

    As the entire student body would have been suspended/expelled.

“Idiots need not apply”.

Raquel Pinkbullet | February 20, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Being offended has taken the place of baseball as America’s favorite pastime.

[…] the phrase — and it is a phrase — is a non-racial idiom, as William Jacobson from Legal Insurrection […]

Anyone who is offended by the word “chink” and applies it to a person of Chinese nationality as a slur is racist themselves.

My grandmother had a close friend last named Gay. I heard about Mrs. Gay all the time while I was growing up. I wonder how that family feels about their name, which used to mean happy, being co-opted to mean something else entirely. Then again, one wonders how Sunday’s child feels about this.|Does anyone want to be born on that day in fear of being called gay?

1. cough cough

2. There are common-sense limits, though. I had it on reasonably good anecdotal authority that decades ago an advertising agency pitched to An Wang, eminent founder of the once formidable Wang Laboratories, the slogan Wang: The Chink in IBM’s Armor. My source said, “I thought you had to have an IQ above 75 to work in advertising.”

3. A colleague born below the Mason-Dixon line once complained about the phrase going south. I guess every other map should be printed upside-down so that on average the compass does not point in a geographically discriminatory direction.

4. Contra the grievance industry, IMO a reasonably thick skin is a positive attribute in a nation of immigrants—as long as there is no deliberate intention to give offense.

I’m tired of language being hijacked in the name of political correctness. I refuse to comply.

Anyway, my garbageman isn’t a sanitation worker either any more, because effective last month, he’s out of a job, replaced by a robot.

The announcer has been suspended and the headline writer fired because the idiom was deemed offensive:

Considering the idiocy of the charge, I personally would not want to work for ESPN knowing what ignoramuses are in charge.

Growing up in Wyoming and spending a some winter nights in log cabin on the prairie, I knew very well what a “chink” is. It is an opening between two logs that will let the wind howl through your cabin and freeze you to death if you don’t fill it in with something.

Those who survived the London Blitz knew that a “chink” in the window curtains would reveal light to the German bombers and make them a target for destruction.

In neither Wyoming nor London did anyone think they were talking about any Chinese person when they used the word “Chink.” ESPN is wallowing in PC these days.

I’m building a house under the new building code’s “dark sky” rules which prohibits any “chinks” of light rising above the roof at night. I guess the building code is racist.

Has the Saturday night race card been expanded to every day now? How much more can society fall for this kind of idiocy without completely disintegrating?

BannedbytheGuardian | February 20, 2012 at 6:21 pm

We all see different things .

I was looking at the phrase & all I could think of was – What is wrong with that?

It was the spelling. I would use ARMOUR. Amor is in armory (heraldry).

Then of course there is l’amore.

Just to be on the safe side, I’ve thrown out my Elton John Honky Chateau eight track, my signed Whitey Ford baseball, and the box of Cracker Jacks I picked up at the Stop ‘N Rob on my way home this afternoon.

So let me get this straight. Not ONE single person in these comments thinks it remotely possible that 1) the headline writer was actually trying to make a joke, and then 2) admitted this when asked by his superiors at ESPN.

You HONESTLY think the use of the word “chink” in this context was purely coincidental ?


It was an intentional attempt at humor, and a bad one at that. Firing might be a bit much, but considering the entire ESPN network’s reputation is being put on the line by people authorized to write headlines for them, I can see their justification.

    BannedbytheGuardian in reply to deadrody. | February 21, 2012 at 2:58 am

    ESPN thought to interview a deadbeat ear biting rapist about Sarah Palin . (Sept 2011 ) & released the expectedly offensive transcript. They liked it.

    Go chink yourself in the anus mate.

[…] Jacobson educates the dummies: Chink in the armor” is a non-racial idiom, not a single word, […]

[…] Jacobson educates the dummies: Chink in the armor” is a non-racial idiom, not a single word, […]

[…] would a group of reasonable men think? TweetBecause me?  I think that this is precisely how we surrender language to those who would presume to control us.  And it’s something I’ve been warning about […]

[…] Jacobson educates the dummies: Chink in the armor” is a non-racial idiom, not a single word, […]